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Solar Construction Permitting Standards

Eligibility 
Agricultural
Commercial
General Public/Consumer
Industrial
Local Government
Nonprofit
Residential
Savings Category 
Photovoltaics
Solar Water Heat
Program Info
State 
Arizona
Program Type 
Solar/Wind Permitting Standards
Provider 
Arizona Department of Commerce

Owners of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and solar water heating systems in Arizona are required to obtain a building permit before their systems may be installed. Permits are handled at the local level and awarded by counties and municipalities. Traditionally, counties and municipalities in Arizona have been free to adopt their own requirements and assign their own fees for a permit. With exceptions, these fees are generally derived from a formula that takes into account the cost and size of the project along with the cost of conducting inspections. [http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/48leg/2r/bills/hb2615s.pdf House Bill 2615], signed in May 2008, established specific standards for the way permits are awarded for PV and solar water heating installations throughout Arizona and applied rules to govern the fee municipalities and counties can charge for a permit.

Municipalities and counties in Arizona may no longer require a stamp from a professional engineer to approve a solar system installation, which can raise the cost of a permit, unless such a certification is deemed necessary. In cases where an engineering stamp is deemed necessary, the city or county must provide the permittee with a written explanation of why the stamp is necessary.

Any building or permit fee assessed by a county or municipality for solar construction must be directly attributable to and defray the expense of the service for which the fee is charged. Rather than using the permit fee as a vehicle to increase revenue, the city or municipality can only charge the permittee exactly what it costs them to issue a permit. Further, before adopting a standard permit fee, the county or municipality must hold a public hearing with at least fifteen days of public notice.

HB 2615 also required the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate to appoint a total of 18 key stake holders to a new "Local government solar equipment permit process improvement study committee". The committee was expected to collect information on best practices regarding local government permitting standards and permitting fees associated with solar energy, and the removal of barriers in the permitting and inspection process. The committee was also required to prepare a report of its findings and recommendations and to deliver it to the governor and the legislature by December 31, 2009. As of December 2012, the committee has not yet been formed, and the tasks required of the committee have not been completed.